What we\u2019ve spent years preparing for \u2013 working in the cloud, conducting meetings by video and calls rerouted to team members\u2019 homes via VoIP \u2013 has become a reality in less than three months, and businesses are now asking, why should they return to office-based working at all?\nThe first few days of quarantine measures designed to combat COVID-19 qualified as crisis management and, by almost any measure, CIOs passed with flying colours.\nHow can they ensure that, when the next crisis hits, they\u2019re best-placed to facilitate business as usual once again?\nCIO as a corporate lynchpin\nContinuity planning is the CIO\u2019s most important job. Their decisions have a direct impact on ROI, and as new solutions to old problems present themselves, they're perfectly positioned to advise on integrating with the existing technology stack.\nThe gauge of a good CIO might once have been that they went unnoticed: if the technology was working, the board was happy. Yet, increasingly, CIOs have a responsibility to drive change and minimise fall-out \u2013 whatever the cause. Former CIO of JPMorgan Chase, Dana Deasey notes that, over a 30-year career: \u201cThe vast majority of things\u2026 have had issues behind them [that] have not been cyber-related. They\u2019ve been a whole bunch of other interesting things \u2013 many of which you could have never predicted.\u201d\nTimes of disruption add complication to CIO portfolios, requiring that they anticipate change on a structural, not just a technological level. Falling valuations will make companies \u2013 both their own and their rivals \u2013 targets for acquisition which, if successful, can bring about a wholesale shift in a company\u2019s technology architecture, and is one reason why CIOs should be C-suite members. \u201cTechnology is fundamental to business continuity,\u201d says Laserfiche CIO Thomas Phelps. \u201cNot including IT leadership at the table is kind of like forgetting to buy charcoal for a barbecue.\u201d\nThe unpredictable nature of business \u2013 and of the world in which we operate \u2013 means CIOs can no longer plan for specific events, but instances of any kind that may disrupt business as normal. As\u00a0 Brian Hopkins, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester, notes: \u201cSuccessful businesses... focus less on accurately predicting future years in advance [and instead] become the kind of company that can adapt as events unfold.\u201d Forrester promotes the idea of an amoeba organisation that: \u201cShifts its shape in response to the dual pressures of customers and technologies [and] carefully balance preparing for the unexpected and thoughtfully rethinking the present.\u201d\nHaving the latitude to develop partnerships with MSPs facilitates the rapid roll-out of new technologies, obviating the need to maintain turnkey facilities to which a business can relocate in times of crisis. It also gives them the benefit of established centres of excellence, relieving them of the imperative to recruit staff specialised in bleeding-edge technologies, only to stand them down when those technologies no longer fit the business. Through such partnerships, businesses remain agile in times of upheaval, geographical redundancy is baked in and hosting in strong data centres guarantees security at times when empty offices could otherwise pose a threat.\nPessimistic planning\nMcKinsey sees the CIO as an organisation\u2019s chief learner, who will \u201chelp the rest of the group to keep getting better and better as things change,\u201d and highlights the responsibilities weighing on the role. \u201cJust pushing out tech won\u2019t work. CIOs need to prioritise reaching out to different stakeholders to understand their needs and the pres\u00adsures they\u2019re managing in order to provide the right solutions.\u201d\nThe result should be comprehensive, adaptable contingency plans with a focus on cloud. The user experience remains the same, wherever that user might be, giving staff access to familiar systems at home for, if anything, a superior and potentially more productive day than they\u2019d manage in the office. The same is true for administrators.\nThe imperative to sweat physical infrastructure may once have been valid, but that\u2019s no longer the case when reliance on a physical point of business can directly impact ROI in the face of a crisis. Switching to cloud means SaaS updates and patches, user provisioning, account creation and more can all be managed through a unified dashboard; hardware support requirements are nil; and there\u2019s no need to interact with physical infrastructure to swap failing drives, manage archives or patch and plug hardware or an OS.\nThe fact that this comes at lower cost, thanks to short contracts and bandwidth-based or per-processor billing, means there\u2019s little imperative to persevere with existing devices until they\u2019re fully written off, knowing that doing so may leave you vulnerable to the next crisis.\nHow to respond to the new world\nRead It\u2019s\u00a0Time to Rethink Your Business\u00a0\u2013\u00a0an essential guide identifying five key priorities that will help your business respond, reset and renew.